Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Coming Soon - House of Ash by Hope Cook - release date 9/26/17


After hearing voices among an eerie copse of trees in the woods, seventeen-year-old Curtis must confront his worst fear: that he has inherited his father’s mental illness. A desperate search for answers leads him to discover Gravenhearst, a labyrinth mansion that burned down in 1894. When he locks eyes with a steely Victorian girl in a forgotten mirror, he’s sure she’s one of the fire’s victims. If he can unravel the mystery, he can save his sanity . . . and possibly the girl who haunts his dreams.

But more than 100 years in the past, the girl in the mirror is fighting her own battles. When her mother disappears and her sinister stepfather reveals his true intentions, Mila and her sister fight to escape Gravenhearst and unravel the house’s secrets—before it devours them both.

Publication Date: September 26th, 2017
Imprint: Amulet Books
Publisher: ABRAMS Kids
Age Group: Teen & YA
Received From: Netgalley in exchange for honest feedback
My Rating: 4/5

I feel the need to give a couple of trigger warnings here for suicidal thoughts and fire.

With that out of the way, I thought this was a solid haunted/possessed house story that is perfect for your upcoming Fall/Halloween reading! 

Mila and Curtis are separated by time, but have many things in common.  They both have younger sisters that mean the world to them.  They both have unreliable parents for various reasons that leave them feeling the weight of the world on their shoulders and having to take on a much more adult role than they should have to.  They are both trapped by Gravenhearst, a house with an evil past that has a life of it's own.

I am fascinated by sprawling mansions with hidden pathways and rooms that seem to have their own personality, that seem to watch you and be alive.  There is just something about an old house that makes it seem like an entity unto itself, whether thought to be haunted or not, they just have more personality that most of the structures we build today.  Maybe that's just a function of time and changes in trend, or maybe it's that the house takes on some characteristics of it's previous owners that make it feel like more than a building.  Gravenhearst is certainly a great example of the latter, and had been infused with evil intent by the family that lived there.  Like a spider at the center of it's web, the house still exerted it's influence on the town and Curtis, even years later, and destroyed to it's foundations.

Curtis believes he's going crazy, like his father.  Mila is fighting for her and her sister's lives. A magical mirror lets them find each other, and recognize a kindred spirit.  Helping each other and escaping the grasp of the house is harder.  Both have so much working against them it seems that there is no possible way out.  Curtis doesn't know who he can trust. Mila knows she can trust no one. It seems like everything goes wrong for them.

This was an exciting and exhausting, escape the house, time traversal story that will keep you on the edge of your seat while hoping for Mila and Curtis to get a happy ending! 

As a side note, for those interested in older houses, here are a few I have visited that may help you imagine the scene! ;)

The Piatt Castles in Logan County, Ohio

Miramont Castle

New and out now! - A Strange Scottish Shore by Juliana Gray


Scotland, 1906. A mysterious object discovered inside an ancient castle calls Maximilian Haywood, the new Duke of Olympia, and his fellow researcher Emmeline Truelove north to the remote Orkney Islands. No stranger to the study of anachronisms in archeological digs, Haywood is nevertheless puzzled by the artifact: a suit of clothing that, according to family legend, once belonged to a selkie who rose from the sea and married the castle’s first laird.

But Haywood and Truelove soon realize they’re not the only ones interested in the selkie’s strange hide. When their mutual friend Lord Silverton vanishes in the night from an Edinburgh street, their quest takes a dangerous turn through time, which puts Haywood’s extraordinary talents—and Truelove’s courage—to their most breathtaking test yet.

Publication Date: September 19th, 2017
Imprint: Berkley
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group
Genre: Romance, Historical Fiction
Received From: Netgalley in exchange for honest feedback
My Rating: 4/5

I am a sucker for anything Scottish, so obviously this title hooked me right away! I do like the cover, though it puts me more in mind of a cozy mystery, and other readers on Goodreads have shelved it in mystery, so I spent most of the book thinking it was a mystery, and I'm pretty sure that it showed up in that genre to me on Netgalley, even though they considered it Historical Fiction and Romance in the write up. Be that as it may, there IS a mystery to be solved, and a very interesting one at that!

First off, this is the second in a series, but that didn't give me too much trouble, other than making me want to go back and read the first one!  It has several of my favorite touchstones, time travel, archaeology, mysterious artifacts and Scotland, and it didn't disappoint!  I found Truelove to be a bit like Amelia Peabody in my favorite Egyptian mystery series by Elizabeth Peters, which is to say, she must be in the middle of everything and she will satisfy her curiosity, even at great danger to herself! I'd like to see the development of her friendly/working relationship with Max which I believe happens in the first book, as we don't see much of him here.  It seems like a very close friendship, which causes more than a few misunderstandings for them,   The main focus of the story is on Truelove and Silverton (also an enigma as we get to see two very different versions of his personality).

There are many twists and plenty of action!  I expected the ending to work out differently than it did, and I'm interested to see where the series goes from here, because the premise can't just end there!  I definitely recommend this one to the Scotland/Ancient Scotland romance and time traveling fans, this wasn't your typical historical romance in my opinion, as my notion that it was a mystery really never ended.  I felt there was just as much focus on that, as on the romance, and I'm interested in more!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Coming Soon - Odd & True by Cat Winters - Release Date 9/12/17


Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

Publication Date: September 12th, 2017
Imprint: Amulet Books
Publisher: ABRAMS Kids
Age Group: Teen & YA
Received From: Netgalley in exchange for honest feedback
My Rating: 4/5

I was very excited to see a new book by Cat Winters available on Net Galley as I really enjoyed In the Shadow of Blackbirds that I read during the Big Library Read. Cat again takes us on a historical and supernatural journey with the tale of two sisters who just might be a bit more than they realize.  My first thought was that this seemed like a turn of the century Supernatural tale only with sisters instead of brothers, which was ultra appealing! 

Of necessity this review may be a bit spoilery, so if you don't want to know more, just know that I enjoyed this tale, and recommend it if you are interested in mystery, sister relationships, past events shaping personalities, and that wonder of supernatural things that might be real, even though you think maybe not, but then maybe, but you're not sure.

Od and Tru are sisters, that for reasons we aren't sure of yet, live with their aunt on her farm.  It opens with Tru imploring Od to tell her a favorite tale, which Od obliges.  This tale is a special one that Od has crafted with love for her little sister, to give her a life full of magic and mystery, to spare her the hard life truths that she's already experienced, and that are still to come.  As the girls get older, Od continues to hold to these myth's of their family, that their mother was a monster hunter, that each family member has different powers, that they are special, and have a duty.  Even through leaving home for a few years and coming back one night to get Tru to leave the farm with her, she clings to these ideas, to the point where Tru is beginning to believe that her sister has gone crazy.

A last second leap of faith leads Tru to run away with Od for an adventure, though she's still not entirely sure of her sister's sanity.  Tru has seen some signs of her own that give her that push she needs, and away they go on a train to they aren't immediately sure where, following their childhood dream of monster hunting.

The chapters alternate between Tru's current telling of events, and Od's recounting of their lives to that point, so we slowly find out the truths and the disappointments that have made Od into who she is.  She's far from crazy, but she is brave, and loving and determined.

This story is very much a study of personality and being shaped by your past, also by what you are told at a young age, and what you are not.  Od and Tru were at once too sheltered, but also neglected in important ways by the adults in their lives.  Tru, kept in a childlike role from her illness and not allowed to make that move into adulthood, and Od being thrown into adulthood without being prepared and then punished for the mistakes that resulted.  Through it all, their love as sisters remained a mainstay for them.

This is a story with so much heart, with an interesting historical backdrop, and that keeps teasing you along, never quite giving you that final answer, is it real, or not?  Cat Winters has definitely shot up on my list of authors to keep track of, and I look forward to catching up on her previous books as well.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Bout of Books 20 - August 21 - 27 and COYER Summer Reading List Read-a-thon #3 - ebook and Audio - August 20 - 27

Bout of Books COYER Wow! Bout of Books 20, can you believe it? Definitely a milestone!

It's also time for the third Read-a-thon of 2017's Summer COYER!

Thanks to a broken arm/wrist I actually find myself with the week off as well, good thing reading can be done one-handed.

I have a few Net Galley ARC's publishing in September, so I need to work on those, along with whatever else I'm in the mood for.

Here are some possibilities:

Monday 8/21:
 (BOB) Gemina 13%, The Wicked + The Divine vol. 1 finished both, Believe Me 35 min.
 (COYER) Odd & True 19%
Tuesday 8/22:
 (BOB) Believe Me 4 hrs. 4 min.
 (COYER) Odd & True 42%
Wednesday 8/23:
 (BOB) Believe Me 3 hrs. 41 min.
 (COYER) Odd & True 79%
Thursday 8/24:
 (BOB) Believe Me 2 hrs. 33 min. - finished, Monstress vol. 1 chap 2., Scarlet Women 10 pgs.
 (COYER) Odd & True - finished
Friday 8/25:
 (BOB) Monstress vol. 1 - finished, The Historian 2 chaps, Sorcerer to the Crown 2 chaps, Scarlet Women some ??, started Nimona
Saturday 8/26:
 (BOB) Binti 57%
Sunday 8/27:
 (BOB) Binti 43% - finished
 (COYER) A Strange Scottish Shore - starting but probably not finishing
Monday 8/28:


Saturday, August 12, 2017

August TBR List Winner - A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

And the winner is...

Book Synopsis:

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

This was a pretty clear cut vote! I've seen a lot of people excited about this one, so I'm looking forward to it!

74% of the votes

21% of the votes

5% of the votes

Saturday, August 05, 2017

My TBR List - August 2017 - Holmes is Where the Heart is

Welcome to my August 2017 edition of My To Be Read List, hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading. This is a monthly meme where we offer up 3 choices from our TBR pile for our readers to pick from to help us make the super hard decision of "what do I read next?" a little easier and to whittle away at the ever growing TBR Mountain! 

Theme: Sherlock Holmes et al.

The poll will stay open through Friday 8/11, and I'll update this post with the winning book on Saturday 8/12, then post a review on the last Saturday of the month, 8/26.

If you think this sounds fun and would like to join (the more the merrier, because we love voting!) please head on over to Because Reading where Michelle lays out the rules for us!

And the choices are...

Book Synopsis:

Fresh out of Cambridge University, the young Mycroft Holmes is already making a name​ ​for himself in government, working for the Secretary of State for War. Yet this most British of civil servants has strong ties to the faraway island of Trinidad, the birthplace of his best friend, Cyrus Douglas, a man of African descent, and where his fiancĂ©e Georgiana Sutton was raised.

Mycroft’s comfortable existence is overturned when Douglas receives troubling reports​ from home. There are rumors of mysterious disappearances, strange footprints in the sand, and spirits enticing children to their deaths, their bodies found drained of blood. Upon hearing the news, Georgiana abruptly departs for Trinidad. Near panic, Mycroft convinces Douglas that they should follow her, drawing the two men into a web of dark secrets that grows more treacherous with each step they take...

Written by NBA superstar Kareem Abdul- Jabbar and screenwriter Anna Waterhouse, Mycroft Holmes reveals the untold story of Sherlock’s older brother. This harrowing adventure changed his life, and set the​ stage for the man Mycroft would become: founder of the famous Diogenes Club and the hidden power behind the British government.

Book Synopsis:

Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagines he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less an audacious teenage girl with a penchant for detection. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes' pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises and danger. But when an elusive villain enters the picture, their partnership is put to a real test.
Book Synopsis:

With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.

When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Coming Soon! - The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F. C. Yee - release date 8/8/17


The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo's every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbors an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined…

Publication Date: August 8th, 2017
My Rating: 4/5 
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo is a modern day twist on characters from Chinese Folklore. While reading I found myself very interested in what elements were actually found in the old tales and what were new from the author, and after some checking, I discovered that the history or backstory if you will, for Genie Lo is actually from 16th century tale, Journey to the West. The modern translation by Arthur Haley is called Monkey, and I'm very interested in reading it now that I've read Genie Lo.

While the story wasn't as smooth as I might have liked, it does have a lot to recommend it, chief among those to me was getting me interested in the mythology it is inspired by.  It is not a retelling of Journey to the West, instead it takes some of those characters, gives them modern personalities, and with a new conflict, goes to town!   It is action packed, with interesting fight scenes that are unique in the problems faced to overcome each enemy. It is humorous in that Genie is dealing with an invasion of demons and trying to get into college at the same time, a tall order for any teenager, even one with heretofore unknown super powers.

I enjoyed the story line, and the use of mythology, and most of the characters, except for Genie herself.  I don't dislike her, but I had a hard time bonding with her.  I am okay with all the other characters but her, and I wonder if that's because it's written in first person narrative, with Genie telling us the story as it's happening. She grows as the story unfolds, but it's hard to overcome that initial discord for me.  I didn't feel like the times she swears in the beginning of the story are really merited by the events taking place, and some of the expletives chosen really turned me off.  I'll admit this is potentially more of a pet peeve of my own than a flaw, but it was jarring and didn't add to the story for me.

Overall The Epic Crush of Genie Lo was a fun read and got me interested in learning more about the mythological characters it showcased.  I would recommend it to those who enjoy that mesh of modern and myth, like myself!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Book Synopsis:

Her story is a phenomenon. Her life is a disaster.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves the online one, and she has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and as he draws her out of her shell, she begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile.

But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

I raced through Eliza and Her Monsters in three days, only partially because of the format, but more because it really spoke to me. Probably it would have been less if I hadn't had to do those silly adult things like working and sleeping so that I could work.

Our emotions over things we love are so strong in our high school years, those things are so important to us and they consume us, becoming everything, taking up most of our waking thoughts that are absolutely required for existing and getting through school. I totally get that, I remember it vividly, although with a little confusion now that I'm older, and that slight wish that I could be so utterly consumed by something I liked again, if only for awhile, as long as it wasn't so difficult to come back from.  They are wonderful and yet also torturous times, to be honest, and truthfully I would not go back for anything.

For me it was writing fan fiction about the bands that I loved, and just endless fantasizing over them and scenerios in which we either were them, or factored heavily as girlfriends, friends, etc.  For Eliza it was a story of her own making, a web comic that she poured everything she was into it, with no real thought of what came after.  Her art and the online world in which she shared it were comfortable and safe.  She had become the weird girl in the real world, unable to relate to those around her very well, but online she was a creator goddess, the mother of a story that had taken on it's own life and gathered a huge number of fans.  She was mysterious and powerful in her anonymity, and Monstrous Sea was the only thing she wanted to work on, school was something that she had to do just enough to get by until she could go back to it.  Her family were all very active, her life was online.  Misunderstandings abound, with neither side able to really communicate well with the other, however well meaning.

When Eliza is exposed as the creator of Monstrous Sea, everything comes crashing down, and she is paralyzed in a way she's never been.  She suffers deeply from anxiety that was likely present all along but was something she could escape from until that safe base becomes the trigger, and threatens to undo the fragile life she is starting to build outside of her online world.

Zappia creates very complex and likable characters, even if you sometimes want to wring their necks for their choices or tunnel vision, and remember we're looking at all from that perfect knowledge of outside that is completely inaccessible when you're in a situation.  There is also humor, and finding your tribe, and romance, and that terrible guilt of a secret kept too long.  There is family and self discovery, and so many other things.  I also really enjoyed the additions of art from Monstrous Sea and wish there was an actual web comic to go look at now that I feel like the artist behind it is a real person that I'm rooting for!

I loved it, and I highly recommend it!  I'm looking forward to reading more by Francesca Zappia, I think Made You Up sounds very intriguing!
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